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COVID19: Cyprus calls on landlords to lower rents

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Authorities are calling on landlords to temporarily lower rents as the House of Representatives on Friday adopted legislation giving tax incentives to property owners to reduce their rent.

A government bill passed with 47 votes in favour and none against, amends the property law so as to offer tax credits to landlords as an incentive to lower rents to help tenants who find themselves in financial difficulty due to lockdown against COVID-19.

Opposition MPs said during the debate that the bill did not go far enough, as it does not oblige landlords to reduce rents.

MPs had rejected a proposal by the head of the Citizens Alliance George Lillikas to lower rents by law for several months.

In their defence, government officials had previously argued that the state cannot intervene with rents because they are private contracts, and as such are protected by the constitution.

Instead, the government proposed tax credits to encourage owners to voluntarily offer deductions after consultations with their tenants.

The bill was announced two weeks ago with Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides explaining that incentives will be given to owners who lower rents for at least three months.

They will be given a tax rebate of 50% of the amount reduced, provided it is not below 30% of the total rent and does not exceed 50% of the rent.

The House also approved a freeze on eviction processes for non-payment of rent until September.

Meanwhile, the House also passed a law allowing the state to guarantee tourists who booked and paid for a Cyprus holiday but were unable to come due to lockdown, to reschedule at no extra cost.

The bill allows the state to guarantee vouchers (€86.6) to be issued by tour operators to tourists who missed out on their holidays due to the lockdown imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19 in March.